• Retention

  January 17, 2024

What is a Living Wage?

Living Wage is the regional-specific wage minimum that allows families to afford necessities including shelter and food, and participation in your community. It is based on a common family unit in BC of two full-time working parents and two children. Learn all about Living Wage, the benefits of a Living Wage, how it is invested in your community, and why you should consider a Living Wage in your region.

Unsure of where to start? Reach out to your regional HR Consultant today to discuss how to find value in becoming a Living Wage Employer and what that transition means for your business.

2 min read

A Living Wage is meant to cover basic expenses, participate in the community on a rudimentary level and help end child poverty. Living Wages are calculated based on a family of four, two working adults and two children, which is the most common family configuration in BC.

Unlike Minimum Wage, Living Wages are calculated regionally and can differ by as much as 30% across BC. At the time of this writing, BC’s minimum wage is $16.75 while the Living Wage ranged between a low of $20.64 in Dawson Creek to a high of $26.51 per hour in Clayoquot Sound. For further context, Vancouver came in at $25.69, Kelowna at $24.60, Golden at $25.78 and Prince George at $22.09.

The hourly rate presented is a composite of wages, health benefits, and other benefits beyond statutory minimums. You can use this calculator to determine the overall value of your wages and benefits.

How is the Living Wage calculated in different regions?

It includes:

  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Rental housing
  • Child care
  • Transportation
  • Small savings to cover illness or emergencies

It does not include:

  • Debt repayment
  • Savings for retirement or home ownership
  • Anything more than the very basic Entertainment & Recreation costs
  • Costs associated with caring for a seriously ill, elderly or disabled family member

Living Wage for Families BC calculates the Living Wage across the province, and the Full Calculation Guide is linked here if you want to explore deeper.

What are the Benefits of paying a Living Wage?

Living Wage for Families BC collects data from its Living Wage Employers in this province. They have reported that Employers report the following benefits:

  • 96% found becoming a Living Wage Employer to benefit their overall business
  • 82% found it helped them live up to their values
  • 57% reported lower staff turnover rates
  • 48% reported good publicity for their business
  • 46% found a recruitment advantage
  • 34% reported an increase in staff morale

Further research out of the UK shows that 80% of Living Wage Employers reported enhanced quality of work, a 25% average reduction in staff turnover, and more than half reported lower absenteeism and sick days used. On the Employee side, the wellbeing of workers was measured, and workers with Living Wage Employers reported a 48% higher rate of psychological wellbeing than their peers working for non-Living Wage Employers.

Investing in the community

A Living Wage is also an investment in your community. It allows families to earn what is truly needed to sustainably cover their basic needs and participate in their community.

Once accredited as a Living Wage employer, that messaging can be used in recruitment marketing and on your website, as is done with the Sovereign Lake Nordic Center in Vernon, the BC Museums Association and the Vancouver International Airport.

Consider your Regional Living Wage

The direct financial costs of a business becoming a living wage employer are undeniable, however, the value created by making the change can mitigate much of the costs. 96% of Living Wage Employers in BC reported net benefits to their overall business despite the increased costs.

If you are paying less than the Living Wage in your region, you are at risk of increased staff turnover, increased recruitment needs and an increased risk of disengaged staff.

Consider your regional Living Wage when setting your compensation levels.